CARY: School Board approves resolution opposing merit pay - WSPA.com

Wake Co. to challenge lawmakers on elimination of teacher career status

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Wake County School Board Christine Kushner presents a resolution opposing a law eliminating tenure and establishing merit pay for teachers. (Steve Sbraccia, WNCN) Wake County School Board Christine Kushner presents a resolution opposing a law eliminating tenure and establishing merit pay for teachers. (Steve Sbraccia, WNCN)
CARY, N.C. -

The Wake County School Board passed a resolution Tuesday opposing a law eliminating "career status" and establishing merit pay for teachers.

The Republican-led state legislature passed a budget last year eliminating teacher career status, commonly referred to as tenure. In exchange for giving up career status rights, school districts are offering the top 25 percent of teachers a four-year contract with pay raises totaling $5,000.

School board Chairwoman Christine Kushner argued that merit pay for the top 25 percent of teachers encourages teachers to keep best practices to themselves rather than sharing them with others.

A teacher with 13 years experience, Lee Quinn agrees that the merit raise plan would pit teacher against teacher.

"If I've got a lesson plan or project that works really well for me and it helps my students to excel, this plan incentivizes me to keep it to myself," said Quinn, a teacher at Broughton High School in Raleigh. "If you follow the plan, a teacher wouldn't want his or her neighbor to succeed because that promotes competition for that bonus."

Kushner added that merit increases only work in low skilled, mechanical jobs, and not for teaching, which requires team collaboration.

The resolution asks the General Assembly to repeal the law by June 30 and replace it with an "effective compensation plan."

"Talented teachers are walking away from Wake County, and away from North Carolina," Kushner said in a statement Tuesday. "We are asking the General Assembly to reconsider this legislation, and in its place, develop a compensation plan that is tied to career growth and pulls North Carolina teacher salaries up to the national average."

The resolution further asks permission for Wake County to keep the $10 million allocated to merit raises and use that money instead for a "locally developed compensation plan."

The school board has asked board member Keith Sutton to initiate a meeting with state lawmakers to discuss the board's resolution and issues related to teacher pay.

The North Carolina Association of Educators has been outspoken about its criticism of the law, going so far as to ask teacher to decline the four-year contracts being offered to them.

"These contracts are a bad deal for North Carolina's public school children and the women and men who have dedicated their lives to them," said Wake NAE President Larry Nilles. "For their students, their schools, and their co-workers, I urge all of North Carolina's public school teachers to 'Decline to Sign.'"

Supporters, however, say the contracts will promote better performance in the classroom.

Senate President Pre Tempore Phil Berger said the law is meant to give administrators the ability to make sure under-performing teachers improve or find new professions. He said last school year, 17 of more than 95,000 instructors were dismissed for cause, implying it would have been more had others not had tenure.

"Schools across North Carolina rightfully take pride in naming teachers of the year, who are positive role models and leaders in their local communities," Berger said. "Likewise, we should embrace the opportunity to recognize and reward more of our top performing teachers."

The NCAE said there were already checks in place to weed out teachers who shouldn't have been in the classroom.

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